After winning early in Thursday’s game with an offensive barrage, Oregon tried the same strategy on Friday. But Oregon’s early offense stalled, and the Ducks instead rode an outstanding 6-hit complete game pitching gem from Isaac Ayon and rallied late to beat Arizona 4 – 3. In a tight, well-played game by both teams, it was a late Arizona mis-cue and some smart base-running that delivered the Ducks a series-clinching run. With the victory, Oregon moves into sole possession of 4th place in the Pac-12 standings, with one game to play.
In the first, Arizona managed to get runners on first and second with 2 outs, but Ayon got a harmless fly ball to left field to end the threat. After a flyout, Colby Shade laced an 0-1 pitch up the middle, but was caught stealing on a subsequent pitch. Brennan Milone then reached on a fielding error in right, and as the ball skipped around the outfield, Milone motored all the way to third. Drew Cowley then brought Milone home with a single to left. That was it for the Ducks in the first, though, as a fly out to center left Cowley stranded.
In the second, Arizona got a lead-off single, but Ayon struck out the next batter, and then got a routine grounder to short that the Ducks turned into a double play. Anthony Hall opened the Oregon second with a first-pitch single to left. Sam Novitske laid down a bunt to move Hall to second base. Bennett Thompson then delivered a one-out home run over the left field fence to give Oregon a 3 – 0 lead. Two fly outs ended the Oregon inning.
Each team managed only a single in the third inning, but Arizona led off the 4th with a homer to cut the lead to 3 – 1. The Wildcats couldn’t follow up as Ayon got 3 straight infield grounders. In Oregon’s half, the Ducks got two baserunners on a Novitske walk and a Gavin Grant single, but each was preceded by an out and the third out came on the heels of Grant’s hit, so Oregon stranded two, but still led 3 – 1.
Arizona struck again in the 5th. After Ayon retired the lead batter, the Wildcats got a single, a walk from Ayon and then a run-scoring double to left field. With runners on 2nd and 3rd, a following ground out to short scored the runner from third. Ayon intentionally walked the next Wildcat and then got a fly out to center to end Arizona’s inning – but the damage had been done and the game was now tied, 3 – 3. Oregon could only get a single in the bottom of the 5th.
Neither team did much with the 6th inning – Arizona went down in order, and for Oregon with two outs Bennett Thompson reached on an error and then stole second but was stranded there by a fly out to center. The 7th was similar, with the Wildcats getting a one-out walk followed by an inning-ending double play. Oregon had a two-out single from Milone followed by a strikeout. Going to the 8th, it was still 3 – 3.
Ayon, though, was really on fire and got 3 quick outs on only 10 pitches, including 2 strikeouts. Oregon’s half of the 8th was a stop-and-start affair. The first Duck up struck out but was followed by another single from Hall. Bryce Boettcher came on to pinch-run for Hall and was thrown out trying to steal second. While this would have moved him into scoring position, it seemed an ill-advised move. This gave Oregon two outs and not a lot more room to maneuver. Arizona’s third error of the game, a throw from third that sailed over the first baseman’s head, allowed Novitske to reach base. With Tyler Ganus pinch-running for Novitske, Jacob Walsh came on to pinch-hit for Thompson. Walsh laid off bad pitches and drew a walk that gave Oregon runners on first and second. Grant came through for the Ducks, lacing a 1 – 0 pitch up the middle for the game-winning RBI. Grant was stranded but Oregon, now leading 4 – 3, went to the top of the 9th needing only to shut down the Wildcats for a series win.
Ayon put a giant exclamation point on his complete-game performance, striking out the Wildcats in order in the top of the 9th on just 11 pitches and the Ducks were home.
Isaac Ayon spread out 6 Arizona hits, struck out 10 and walked 3 in the winning effort. Drew Cowley went 3 – 4 with an RBI, Anthony Hall was 2 – 4, Bennett Thompson went 1 – 3 with 2 RBI and Gavin Grant was 2 – 4 with an RBI to complete the Ducks scoring.
The teams play again tomorrow in the final game of the series. Join adamh86 right here on ATQ for that coverage.